Crisis in South Sudan

The crisis in South Sudan, much like other conflict ridden emergencies in the world, is receiving little attention from the international community and as a result there has been inadequate funding and resources to respond to the more than one million people who have been uprooted and displaced because of the violence.  According to a joint statement by ACT Alliance members who are responding in the region, "regrettably, the international community is not responding to South Sudan and the media attention to it is now almost non-existent."

On behalf of North American Disciples, Week of Compassion continues to respond as we are able, and the WoC Committee recently approved a major grant of $20,000 for the ACT Alliance appeal.  Week of Compassion is also delighted and grateful that Memorial Boulevard Christian Church in St. Louis, Missouri has designated the crisis in South Sudan to be a major focus of their annual Hunger Hike this coming Saturday, April 26, 2014.  For over three decades, this congregation has given several hundred thousand dollars to WoC causes in the world!

For more information on the current situation in South Sudan, you can read this article and these personal testimonies and pictures

Help and Hope: Order Your Copy Now!

If a disaster struck your community, what would you do to help?  Does your church have a plan for addressing the needs of its members, of its community?  If your church or community were lost in a major disaster, what resources would you use?  How would you even begin?

Drawing upon their own work and the skills of a number of pastors and disaster response practitioners, Rev. Amy Gopp and Rev. Brandon Gilvin have edited Help and Hope: Disaster Preparedness and Response Tools for Congregations, a practical guide for preparing for and responding to disasters. 

From preparedness lists and advice on forming Long-Term Recovery groups to guides on psychosocial care and preparing post-disaster worship materials, Help and Hope offers a number of tools for congregations, including the following Disaster DOs and DONT’s list.

Collected from Faith-Based Disaster Response Organizations, Volunteer Agency Liaisons from FEMA, and the amazing volunteers who make up community-based Long-Term Recovery Committees, the DOs and DON’T’s are great to keep on hand in the event of a disaster affecting your community. They make a good resource to copy and hand out, post or project in your fellowship hall, or share on social media:

DO: Check on your members, neighbors, and especially those who are elderly, disabled, or vulnerable in other ways.

DON’T: Self-deploy as a volunteer, especially during the search and rescue phase. You will only get in the way or put yourself in danger.

DO: If there are needs in your congregation and you belong to a national denomination, please contact your Regional Office, District Superintendent, or appropriate middle judicatory office, so they can coordinate ways to provide support through available disaster funds and organizations.

DO: Check with your local VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) about needs of survivors before collecting any material donations.

DON’T: Collect material donations without arranging an appropriate destination (local social service agency, etc.).

DO: Know that money is the most flexible donation you can make. Denominational and other disaster response funds often have really low overhead and are efficient, effective ways to turn your generosity into assistance.

DO: If eligible, encourage all affected folks in your congregation and community to apply to FEMA for Federal Disaster Assistance. Please be aware that this is a long process, and be sure to read all documents carefully. An initial rejection does not mean one cannot appeal; an applicant may also be eligible for low-interest loans to replace damaged property.

DON’T: Get discouraged by how long the process takes.

DO: Become familiar with FEMA's sequence of delivery

DON’T: Organize material good distributions that might compromise an affected person’s eligibility for aid. (Let the sequence of delivery be your guide.)

DO: Encourage leaders in your congregations to become involved in the formation of a long- term recovery committee and to put their skills to work.

DO: Stay hopeful. Recovery takes a long time, even among well-supported, well-organized communities.

For more practical tools to help your church plan for the unexpected, check out Help and Hope, now available for pre-order from Chalice Press.  Royalties benefit the work of Week of Compassion and Church World Service.